TUCSON, Ariz. – Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker was as animated as ever, helping teammates off the grass while whooping and hollering.
It’s what leaders – or potential leaders – are made of, especially in the spring, when a team’s identity is being formed. And Denker, a fifth-year senior, said he wants to be more vocal and wants his teammates to know he’s more confident in them — and they should be the same with him.
“If I have a lot of energy and effort, that’s just going to resonate with our offense,” said Denker, the presumed leader at quarterback spot this spring after spending last year as Matt Scott’s understudy. “I just want to let them know I’m having fun – and I am.”
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One could see it Saturday, particularly late, when Denker was moving the offense against the defense in Arizona’s first informal scrimmage of the spring.
“I felt really good today,” Denker said. “It was a good day on offense. We moved the ball pretty well against our first(-team defense).”
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said that while the team “looked a little ragged at times,” the day as a whole was a good one after the Cats looked out of shape earlier in the week upon their return from spring break.
“(The offense) isn’t flowing as fast as I would like, but it’s flowing better than it was last year,” Rodriguez said. “We don’t have Matt Scott, as well. We got spoiled with Matt, but B.J. played well, and some of the (other) quarterbacks did well, too.”
What’s clear is that Arizona’s offense is further along now than it was a year ago in Rodriguez’s first spring in Tucson, even without Scott, who excelled last spring and carried that through an impressive first season as starter.
Denker is attempting to do his part.
“I felt really good today, and it was good,” said Denker. “I was happy with the performance. Everybody here has had a year under Coach (Rodriguez), so we’re familiar with it. We know what to do with the football. It was exciting. We’re moving well on offense.”
Arizona wide receiver Terrance Miller said that while it was early to make any definitive judgments, “we are jelling pretty well” on offense.
“We’re getting comfortable with each other as far as the receivers go,” he said. “It’s a group that’s the hardest to get together, but we’re getting it together.”
Miller said he’s been impressed with Denker, who “has been in control” in part because “he has a good feel for the offense.”
“He feels like he’s in control, and that’s always good for a starting quarterback,” Miller said. “We’re following B.J. right now.”
Rodriguez, meanwhile, said the team needs to get in better shape, although that takes time, even years.
“We’re not strong enough,” Rodriguez said.
Before the spring began, Rodriguez said he and the coaches would put a lot of pressure on the quarterbacks, giving them a lot to handle so that come game time, it would be second nature.
“I don’t want them to feel pressure on Saturdays, game day,” Rodriguez said. “We have a lot of eyes on them. … We want them to make the right decisions, make the right reads and execute. It’s pretty demanding to play quarterback in this offense, from a mental and physical standpoint. But, the way (the coaches) structure the practices, they should be ready to go.”
So far, so good with Denker.
“Coach is intense, and so are practices, but he wants it to be,” Denker said. “When I first got here, it was a little rough, but you can’t take it personally. You shake it off and go to the next play.”
Arizona has its spring game scheduled for April 13 at Frank Sancet Stadium. Until then, it’ll all be about fundamentals — and a little fun.
“We really have only installed half the offense, but we will probably put a couple more things in,” Rodriguez said. “The week of the spring game, we won’t install anything on offense or defense and we will only have practice one day and let the players have some fun in front of their friends and family on the day of the scrimmage.”